Updated: Jan 3
A Brief Overview
Trial Length- between 3.5 and 7.7 miles round trip depending on which path you take. Its a bit of a choose your own distance.
The sand bench trail is a sandy long loop that wraps around the edge of a bench that sits at the base of Sentinel Peak in Zion National Park. Its name holds true in that much of the trail is sandy and unfortunately almost entirely uphill until just about the end of the loop and the trail heads back towards the trailhead. The views along the hike are quite pleasant making it a solid day hike in the fall/spring but one to avoid in the summer months unless you start very early or very late.
There are two access points, one is from Emerald Pools trailhead where you make a left just after the bridge crossing. The other is the more common access point which begins at the Court of the Patriarch bus stop. From here hop out of the bus and cross the road towards the horse corals. Follow this paved road until you see a little trail at the back end of the horse area that leads towards a bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the trail up the hill for about half a mile. At this point, you will run into a fenced section of trail where the horses wander when they do their tour. You are officially on the trail.
I only have limited knowledge on the details of this hike because I only did half of it. I know the left fork of the trail better than the right fork. The trail up the left fork of the trail starts steep and has the remains of a weird paving system that the CCC did back in the 1940s. This paving system has been slowly dying so the trail will kind of go back and forth between it being ok and falling apart. Once this disappears the trail picks up its more characteristic sandiness, though the left fork of the loop is the less sandy side.
The views from this trail are quite exquisite. There are great views of the Two Brother, East Temple, Bridge Mountain and The Watchman. Including in all these views are of course the cliffs of the Sentinal peak that this trail wraps under.
I really enjoyed this hike. It wasn’t too steep like Angels Landing, but challenging enough that it was a really good work out. I was quite surprised on how awesome this hike was and wondered why it took me over a decade of hiking in Zion before I got my crap together to actually do this hike to the final overlook points. I had tried once before some 10 years ago. I first attempted it from the Emerald Pools side and realized that’s the really crappy way to do this hike simply because of all the sand. But that was years ago so I could be totally wrong on how it looks now. As mentioned, I didn’t do the right half of the trail loop. I spoke with a few people who came from that direction and they said the trail was mostly really deep sand that made for a brutal hike, so I decided to forgo that. My side was sandy enough for my take.
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